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Radio Caroline 1980s - History (12)

Meanwhile, another serious even potentially fatal, threat to the future of Radio Caroline - and in fact any offshore broadcasting station off the British coast - was being assembled in the British Parliament where the Broadcasting Bill was passing through its various legislative stages.

One particular clause, Clause 159, had been added to the Bill at a comparatively late stage in the procedure, on 9th May 1990, significantly amending the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967 to allow the Royal Navy and the Army to board offshore radio ships and use "reasonable force" to make arrests and seize equipment. These provisions could be exercised  beyond territorial limits and allowed the British Government to exercise its powers on a foreign registered ship in international waters - a hitherto unacceptable and illegal practice. Additionally those taking part in, or authorising, such a boarding were to be immune from prosecution or claims for damages.

In June 1990 solicitors Richards Butler, acting for Radio Caroline, wrote to the Department of Trade, the owners of the Landward and the Dutch Embassy in London advising that their clients were seeking compensation for actions taken against the Ross Revenge in August 1989. The Dutch Embassy was informed that its nationals had committed acts of assault (including indecent assault), battery and false imprisonment against individuals on board the Ross Revenge and acts of trespass and removal of goods against the vessel's owners, Grothan Steamship Co. Inc.

However, in July 1990 information came to light which cast doubt about the validity of the registration of the Ross Revenge in Panama and Richards Butler undertook enquiries to clarify the situation. By the end of October 1990 the solicitors informed the Caroline Legal Fund that they felt any allegations that the Ross Revenge was not registered could be defended, but at considerable cost.

Meanwhile various supporters of Radio Caroline had been making their own enquiries into the registration status of the Ross Revenge with representatives of the Panamanian Government in Britain, the USA and in Panama itself. These enquiries produced the astonishing response that the Ross Revenge was not registered and that any certificate indicating that she was had not been issued correctly. Furthermore the Panamanian Government indicated that if broadcasting resumed from the Ross Revenge it would ask the British Government to take measures to ensure that the radio ship was silenced for good.

The various enquiries made of Panamanian Government Departments then triggered an internal investigation in Panama into the circumstances surrounding the registration of the Ross Revenge. Because of the complicated way in which the vessel's registration had been organised in 1982 some doubt was cast on its authenticity. The 'President' of Grothan Steamship Lines Inc. (the registered owner of the Ross Revenge) even offered to sell information to the inquiry team because the Panamanian investigation was spreading to other affairs with which he was involved.

Spectrum Radio started official transmissions on both 558kHz and 990kHz on 25th June 1990 and at 2.00pm that afternoon Radio Caroline's signal began to be badly affected by a loud buzzing noise. Shortly afterwards Radio Caroline announced that it would be going off the air for transmitter and aerial work to be carried out and the station closed at 2.30pm.

Radio Caroline was off the air (apart from some short test transmissions) until the end of July 1990 when broadcasts of non-stop music were made. The station was experiencing enormous operational difficulties at this time anyway and the blotting out of its signal by Spectrum Radio meant that it was unable to provide any semblance of a regular service either for its listeners or the religious programme sponsors who contributed the bulk of its financial income.

However, at 3.00pm on 19th August 1990 Radio Caroline opened again on 558kHz, for an hour and a half long special programme, "Remember the Raid", dedicated to everyone who was on board the Ross Revenge on that date the previous year when the radio ship had been raided and silenced by the Dutch and British authorities. Recordings of events which took place during the raid the previous year were played, followed by some classic tracks from the Caroline Top 500 chart.

The special broadcast ended at 4.30pm and the transmitters on board the Ross Revenge remained silent for another three weeks. Then, quite suddenly,  at 6.00pm on 10th September 1990 regular transmissions recommenced from Radio Caroline on 558kHz, although the signal still suffered interference from Spectrum Radio's broadcasts. For a few days Radio Caroline just operated a twelve hour overnight service, but on the afternoon of 14th September the transmitter was switched on at 2.00pm for DJ Ricky Jones to announce that the Ross Revenge was being circled by a vessel, the Landward, and DTI  officials on board were taking photographs of the radio ship. After about four and a half hours in the vicinity of the Ross Revenge the Landward sailed away, but anxious DJs, fearing another possible raid on the radio ship, kept Radio Caroline's transmitter on air throughout that night in case they needed to make emergency announcements for assistance.

Nothing happened as a result of the Landward's visit that day, but on 16th September 1990  during the overnight transmissions a message was broadcast every half hour saying that Radio Caroline would be voluntarily closing down at midnight to enable 'positive steps' to be taken  for the station to continue in the long term.

Click on picture to enlarge

“Remember the Raid”  - a special programme to mark the anniversary of the Dutch raid on the Ross Revenge in 1989

Remember the Raid 19.08.90.mp3

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